John McEnery, Milo O'Shea, Pat Heywood, Michael York, Bruce Robinson
Drama, Romance, Shakespearean Tragedy
Academy Award for Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design
Date of Release
October 8, 1968
John Brabourne, Anthony Havelock-Allan
Setting and Context
In 16th century Verona, Italy, a feud between two noble families comes to a head when their children fall madly in love.
Narrator and Point of View
The film is narrated by an unnamed character who opens the film with a prologue that sets the stage (so to speak) and tells the audience outright that two lovers from the feuding families will die and so end the feud. When the narrator isn't present, we view the story omnisciently, moving between the perspectives of Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt, Friar Lawrence, the Nurse, Lord and Lady Capulet and Montague, and others.
Tone and Mood
The film's tone runs the gamut from the highest elation to the darkest sorrow, usually in accordance with the feelings of those onscreen. A common theme in Romeo and Juliet (1968) is the brimming passion displayed by many of the characters, and the mood tends to shift as their passions do, including with swells of the music (as when Romeo and Juliet kiss for the first time) and the quick, rapid movements of the camera (as when Romeo runs happily home after the balcony scene).
Protagonist and Antagonist
Protagonists: Romeo and Juliet; there's no one in antagonist in the film—the families' feud is the largest source of conflict, causing servants from each household to behave villainously, for example Tybalt and Mercutio.
The major conflict is between the connection embodied in Romeo and Juliet's love and the hatred between their two families. The drama of the plot concerns whether their love will overcome the animosity that pits the two families against each other.
The film's climax comes when Romeo, believing Juliet to be dead, poisons himself to be with her in death. Juliet then wakes from her fake death to find Romeo's body and stabs herself with his dagger out of grief in order to be with him. After this, the families agree to end their feud and begin a peace.
As mentioned many times throughout this guide, the film is rife with foreshadowing: the opening prologue tells us outright that Romeo and Juliet are slated for death as a means of mending the divide between the two families, and all through the story, characters reference the fact that this will be its tragic end: as one example, Romeo expresses an unfounded dread before going to the Capulet feast, fearing that the events of the night will bring about his death. As another, before marrying the lovers, Friar Lawrence prays that what he's about to do won't have dire consequences, which of course it will.
When Mercutio is fatally injured by Tybalt, he tries to wave it off to his friends by calling it "a scratch." This was of course an understatement, as within a minute he has died from the wound.
Innovations in Filming or Lighting or Camera Techniques
The camera used to shoot the film, an Arriflex model, was very noisy and could be heard in the footage throughout filming. To remedy this, all of the sound effects and dialogue were recorded later and dubbed over the footage, and as a result, there are instances throughout the film in which the audio doesn't perfectly match up to what the characters are saying or doing.
There are many allusions to mythological figures in the story: as one example, in the balcony scene, Romeo says that the moon is jealous of Juliet's beauty. This is an allusion to Diana, Roman goddess of the moon and of virginity, among other things, who Romeo suggests feels threatened by Juliet's beauty. Minutes later, Juliet says, "At lovers' perjuries, they say, Jove laughs." This is a reference to Jove, also called Jupiter, the Roman king of the gods.
One classic example of paradox is expressed by Juliet when she calls Romeo "my only love sprung from my only hate." She is aghast to learn that the single person she is forbidden to love, the son of her enemy, is the very boy for whom she falls.
Romeo and Juliet experience their deaths in parallel (though not temporally): Romeo is so overtaken by grief at the sight of his dead wife that he almost immediately drinks a vial of poison to take his own life. Only minutes later, Juliet mirrors this occurrence when she is similarly overwhelmed by the sight of Romeo's corpse next to her that she stabs herself with his dagger.
Romeo and Juliet (Film 1968) Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Romeo and Juliet (Film 1968) is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.